I admit it—I’m a dreamer. I think all authors are. One of my recurring daydreams involves a bottomless file on my computer titled Rejections. The file is so named because Those-Idiot-Literary-Agents-Are-Not-Smart-Enough-To-See-The-Genius-Of-My-Work seemed way too long.
In my dream, here’s what happens. One of my books becomes a huge success, selling a hundred million copies. Suddenly I begin to receive letters and emails from every literary agency and publisher in the country hoping to represent or publish my next book. I’ll notify each and explain they need to follow MY guidelines if they hope to do business with me. Each set of guidelines will be as ridiculous as they are different.
As agents and publishers respond, I’ll reply to each in a different way. Some I’ll simply send a form letter thanking them and wishing them luck somewhere else. Some I’ll say that it’s not them, it’s me. (I love when I get those rejections. It takes me back to times in my past when girlfriends dumped me.) Some I’ll say that the quality of their company doesn’t grab my attention. Other I will inform that their platform isn’t large enough. You get the idea.
Of course it’s just a dream. That never gets to happen—or does it? I have just read a story about a famed author who indeed got to do that very thing.
In 1975, Norman Maclean’s first book, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories, had received the green-light to be published by Alfred A. Knopf, a lofty publisher in New York, which is part of Knopf Doubleday Publishing at Random House. However, after jerking Mr. Maclean around for a long time, the book was deemed unsellable and the project dropped. Consequentially, the book was published by University of Chicago Press and became a best-seller and a major motion picture.
Six years later, Norman Maclean received a letter from Charles Elliot of Alfred A. Knopf Publishing expressing an early interest in his next book. For a while, Mr. Maclean didn’t even realize who it was from, but when he did, he made the dream come true for a lot of us authors. Here’s an excerpt:
“The dream of every rejected author must be to see, like sugar plums dancing in his head, please-can’t-we-see-your-next-manuscript letters standing in piles on his desk, all coming from publishing companies that rejected his previous manuscript, especially from the more pompous of the fatted cows grazing contentedly in the publishing field. I am sure that, under the influence of those dreams, some of the finest [f#@k]-you prose in the English language has been composed but, alas, never published. And to think that the rare moment in history came to me when I could in actuality have written the prose masterpiece for all rejected authors – and I didn’t even see that history had swung wide its doors to me.”
BAM!! You go, Norman. You are definitely one of my new heroes. FYI—I blocked out the four-letter word above; Mr. Maclean did not. I might not ever have the satisfaction of drafting such a letter, but it makes me feel good to know that someone has written it for all of us. Here’s how that incredible letter ended:
“But, although I let the big moment elude me, it has given rise to little pleasures. For instance, whenever I receive a statement of the sales of ‘A River Runs Through It’ from the University of Chicago Press, I see that someone has written across the bottom of it, ‘Hurrah for Alfred A. Knopf.’ However, having let the great moment slip by unrecognized and unadorned, I can now only weakly say this: if the situation ever arose when Alfred A. Knopf was the only publishing house remaining in the world and I was the sole remaining author, that would mark the end of the world of books.”
That is so awesome. Soon after he wrote that, Norman Maclean called it, “one of the best things I ever wrote [...] I really told those bastards off. What a pleasure! What a pleasure! Right into my hands! Probably the only dream I ever had in life that came completely true.”
I concur. Let’s hope we all have dreams like that come true in our lives. You can read the entire letter here: http://www.lettersofnote.com/2012/04/end-of-world-of-books.html
Neal Wooten, Publisher/Indie Author/Illustrator/Cartoonist